Lullabies for Little Criminals

By Heather O'Neill,

Book cover of Lullabies for Little Criminals

Book description

Baby is twelve years old. Her mother died not long after she was born and she lives in a string of seedy flats in Montreal's red light district with her father Jules, who takes better care of his heroin addiction than he does of his daughter. Jules is an intermittent…

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Why read it?

4 authors picked Lullabies for Little Criminals as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This is a haunting and sad book that gripped me right from the beginning.

The father-daughter relationship is frustrating, sympathetic, and heartwarming. This book made me feel so many things that are hard to put into words. There is a naivete in the pre-teen protagonist that is sweet yet so deeply broken by her circumstances, which was something I really related to, and the decisions that she makes are inevitable, real, and tragic. 

A novel with a disarming protagonist who notices small flowers in dirty rugs, peeling wallpaper, and snow-covered sidewalks. Baby (her ‘ironic’ name) observes her marginal existence with her single twenty-something-drug-addicted Dad in Montreal’s red light district with wisdom and optimism.

I loved her voice, her resilience, and the innocence of her character. Accessible and fun to read, I became aware that Baby’s simple observations were exquisitely detailed and had the effect of lifting the prose to a level of insightfulness without being showy.

As a reader, I immediately relaxed in the presence of this charming teen/narrator and her sometimes scary…

O’Neill shoved me right into the real world of her novel, as intended. The narrator ‘Baby’ (could there be a more ironically named protagonist?) is the 12-year-old daughter of a heroin-addicted father, a single parent. The story revolves around Baby’s adolescence amid her neglect and its repercussions, her descent into criminality. My heart just beat alongside Baby’s. Your heart would have to be of granite not to beat alongside Baby’s. This is what fiction does. 

This would be a perfect choice for a mother-daughter or father-daughter book club. The twelve-year-old protagonist, Baby, will slip under your skin with an astonishing intensity. The odds are against her. She has no mother, a heroin-addicted father, and spends too much time on the streets of Montreal with unsavory characters. And yet, Baby’s spirit and maturity are imbued with a rawness that will make you laugh and cry all at once. When her father tries to bribe her to get her to stop following him, she thinks: “As he shouted out all my favorite things, they seemed so cheap…

From Shelly's list on YA for adults.

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